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Death Sworn



Solid fantasy whodunit has lots of intrigue and magic.

What parents need to know

Educational value

This mystery set in a fantasy world with magic is meant to entertain.

Positive messages

Don't believe what everyone else does: Find things out for yourself. Overthrowing an evil empire is not worth sacrificing innocent lives.

Positive role models

Heroine Ileni finds a way to bring purpose to her life after she's been sent away from the only home and people she's known. She's smart, resourceful, brave, and willing to see even the most frightening tasks through to achieve her goal. She makes mistakes along the way, but learns from them. Her bodyguard Sorin belongs to an assassins guild, but models physical strength, mental discipline, and being true to your word.


There's a lot of talk about murder, especially assassination. There's also a lot of descriptions of physical training to teach assassins how to kill. Fights happen half a dozen times or so; blows and injuries are described but there's no gore. Blood's mentioned a few times, and a climactic confrontation ends with a throat slashing that's described in some detail with lots of blood. A dead body's described vaguely and blood is mentioned. Someone's killed with a thrown knife but it's not described in detail and there's no gore described.


A couple of kisses are mentioned but not described. Once Ileni mentions that she stopped making out before it went too far to avoid the risk of pregnancy. It's implied that Ileni and Sorin have sex, although nothing is described and it's just hinted that something sexual happens between them.


"Whore" is used once.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Students of varying ages have goblets at a party and the room smells of wine. Ileni drinks from a goblet at the party and describes some good-time feelings. Later she mentions that wine makes it easy not to think of things. A student trades with outsiders for wine and other supplies.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that for a murder mystery that takes place in an assassin training academy, Death Sworn has relatively little violence. Sure, murder and death are major topics, but there's no gore. A climactic confrontation ends with a throat slashing that's bloody and briefly described, and a dead body's described with some blood mentioned but no other gory detail. Sex is confined to a couple of kisses. A heavier make-out session and the possibility of sex are hinted at, but nothing's described or specifically mentioned as having happened. Students of varying ages from pre-teen to young adult at the assassin academy drink wine at celebrations.

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What's the story?

A test has proven that one day Ileni, 17, will lose her magical powers, which means she can no longer live with the Renegai, the sorcerer community in which she grew up. As part of a long-standing treaty with the assassins she's sent to their hidden enclave to teach them spells that will help them on their killing missions. The two previous magic teachers have been murdered in the span of a few months, and as Ileni feels her powers waning she knows that she could be murdered at any moment. But she's determined to find out how and why her predecessors died for the sake of helping the Renegai, even though she knows it will be the last thing she does.

Is it any good?


DEATH SWORN is the third novel from Leah Cypess, and she's hit her stride here. She successfully creates a tense, oppressive atmosphere in the assassins' caves; the characters are well developed and believable; the mystery is intriguing and the solution takes almost as many twists and turns as the winding underground fortress itself. The ending is satisfying but leaves the door open for a sequel.

The writing never really soars, but it's solid, and kids who like mystery, intrigue, and magic will enjoy rooting for the heroine Ileni as she tries to solve the case -- and stay alive.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why books that combine magic and mystery are so popular. Which element do you like better, the magic, or the mystery?  Or do you like both elements?

  • The boys and young men training to be assassins never seem to question the master's authority or plans. Was there ever a time you wanted to speak out about something but didn't?  Why not?

  • When you read mysteries, are you usually able to tell whodunnit, or are you usually surprised? What about this time? Whom did you suspect the most?

Book details

Author:Leah Cypess
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Great girl role models
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Greenwillow Books
Publication date:March 4, 2014
Number of pages:352
Publisher's recommended age(s):13 - 17
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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Teen, 16 years old Written byRox-43 May 28, 2015

loved it!

I loved the book it was really good in my opinion. If you like mystery plots in there as well you will hopefully like this book.


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